Monday, November 28, 2011

Norwegian Wood and marginalia

Reading as a little boy I always wondered why there were blank pages at the end of books. Wikipedia offers us a technical explanation. Those blank pages are a result from the convention of printing books in large sheets of paper and therefore sometimes one or several pages are left intentionally devoid of content at the end. 

When I was ten years old however, I concluded that those pages were meant to be written on for the reader. Sometimes I would write alternate endings for books. For someone like me who was left utterly depressed by the endings of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, I found joy in writing a happier conclusion for the Baudelaire triplets. 

Or I would play pretend-critic and wrote what I thought about the book or noted down chapters and pages that I know I would want to revisit later on. 

Now I've moved away from writing solely on the end pages and now habitually write on the margins of all pages in the book, underlining quotes, writing of-the-moment reactions (usually immature) or just thoughts inspired by the writing. 

It made reading an active experience which is an essential part of this pastime. This is important especially for younger generations who are used to media acting as interactive spaces for them. 

I found this act particularly useful when I read Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood. A deeply saddening story about damaged, fragile minds. I found myself angered, depressed, amused and frustrated and writing about my thoughts was completely liberating. His writings are so beautiful that so many passages bore the underlines signifying their amazingness.  Murakami writes in a way that even the descriptions of the most banal object, character or setting can instigate a cleansing weeping session in one's room. It's like his words are stained with melancholy.

He is also quite blunt. He declares a character's death as if he was proclaiming the day's weather. The first sentence of the last chapter was written so plainly I had to re-read it several times to grasp what it actually meant despite its simple statement. A combination of shock and mournfulness swallowed me and I had to close the book to give me time to breathe. It was the first sentence of that chapter.

The characters are colourful, dark or just plain bizarre and they go in and out like ghosts. Once you start reading about one you end up forgetting about the others until you are jolted back to them.

Murakami is also a master of time. The narrative would weave the past, the present and the near future so seamlessly. It feels tightly constructed without being too antiseptic. 

If you have ever been interested in human beings and their minds and feelings, then please don't neglect reading this. 

All images are owned by me and cannot be reused without permission or crediting the original source.

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